Videogum

Instead Of This Robot Hand, Let’s Just Not Communicate Anymore?

Gabe Delahaye | March 28, 2012 - 1:30 pm

After the jump, I have posted a video that features a live demonstration of a new-fangled technology in which a computer, or WHATEVER, measures some junk in your hand and then translates that to a warm rubber ROBOT HAND so that you can virtually shake hands with someone on the other side of the world. Sure. My only question at this point is WHY THE FUCK? And also NO? So I guess I had two questions. When I see this robot hand reaching out, touching me, touching you, I just want Herschel to board up all the windows because there’s nothing left for us out there. Maybe communication with other human beings was a big mistake after all. Maybe humans aren’t social creatures after all. I know I’m not. Not anymore. Get the hell away from me. NO TOUCHING! NO BEES!

This actually reminds me of that part in Infinite Jest (OH GOOD GOD, HERE WE GO WITH MR. COLLEGE OVER HERE) when David Foster Wallace made a very compelling argument for why videophone technology was a failure (this is before all the phones actually had it):

Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation […] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. And yet — and this was the retrospectively marvelous part — even as you were dividing your attention between the phone call and all sorts of other idle little fuguelike activities, you were somehow never haunted by the suspicion that the person on the other end’s attention might be similarly divided.

[…] Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable. Callers now found they had to compose the same sort of earnest, slightly overintense listener’s expression they had to compose for in-person exchanges. Those caller who out of unconscious habit succumbed to fuguelike doodling or pants-crease-adjustment now came off looking extra rude, absentminded, or childishly self-absorbed. Callers who even more unconsciously blemish-scanned or nostril explored looked up to find horrified expressions on the video-faces at the other end. All of which resulted in videophonic stress…

And the videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn’t. Good old aural telephone calls could be fielded without makeup, toupee, surgical prostheses, etc. Even without clothes, if that sort of thing rattled your saber. But for the image-conscious, there was of course no answer-as-you-are informality about visual-video telephone calls, which consumers began to see were less like having the good old phone ring than having the doorbell ring and having to throw on clothes and attach prostheses and do hair-checks in the foyer mirror before answering the door.

Now just replace all of the references to videophonic stress with PLASTIC ROBOT SENTIENT GHOST HAND stress and you’ll see that I nailed it with this literary reference (via Kottke upon the release of the iPhone 4). Siri, who’s the worst blogger on the Internet? Siri, where can I buy a gun and one bullet? (Video via Neatorama.)